The Exceptional Man
We have given the leading place in this number to “The Era of the Exceptional Man,” because it is a remarkable article by one of the world’s great writers. The importance of the subject from every viewpoint is such that it should receive serious attention on all sides. Out of his knowledge of business conditions and wide experience among business men, Dr. Marden writes with force and authority.
Dr. O. S. Marden
MR. CARNEGIE says: “The most valuable acquisition to his business which an employer can obtain is an exceptional young man. There is no bargain so fruitful.”
This is the Marshall Field & Company idea of what makes the exceptional employee.
“To do the right thing, at the right time, in the right way; to do some things better than they were ever done before; to eliminate errors; to know both sides of the question ; to be courteous ; to be an example ; to work for love of the work ; to anticipate requirements ; to develop resources; to recognize no impediments; to master circumstances; to act from reason rather than rule; to be satisfied with nothing short of perfection.”
This is an era of the exceptional man. No matter who else is out of employment, no matter how many thousands of people are crowding the employment offices looking in vain for jobs, no matter how hard the times are or how dull business may be, the exceptional man, the man who can do things, the man who has a superb training and who is ambitious to do things in a large and an original way, and who possesses a fine mind, is always in demand. There are always plenty of situations waiting for him. Fie does not have to hunt for a job, he simply selects the one he prefers. There is a standing advertisement evervwhere for the exceptional young man.
Never before'was there such a demand for the exceptional, the resourceful man, the man who can think, who can devise new and original ways of doing things, the man who can grasp the needs of the situation and solve them with his resourcefulness.
The exceptional employee is the one who is always on the alert for business, who is so polite and attentive and obliging to his customers that everybody wants to deal with him; who makes friends for the firm, who adds dignity to the house. He is the one who looks upon his employer’s interests as he would his own, who regards his vocation as an opportunity to make a man of himself, an opportunity to show his employer the stuff he is made of, and wTbo is always preparing himself to fill the position above him.
The exceptional employee is the one who never says, “I was not paid to do that”; “I don’t get salary enough to work after hours or to take so much pains.” Fie never leaves things half done, but does everything to a finish. Fie studies his employer’s business, reads its literature; he is on the watch for every improvement which others in the same line have adopted and which his employer has not, and is always improving himself during his spare time for larger things.
The exceptional employee is the one whose main, ambition is to help along the business ; who stays after hours during the busy season to help out wherev-
er he can, and when any emergency arises in the concern, has a valuable suggestion for its solution. The exceptional employee is the one who settles difficulties among his co-workers without rupture, and is always trying to avoid friction, to keep peace and harmony in the firm. He encourages the dull boy or the boy who can not seem to get hold of the business; he is always ready to give a lift whenever needed, and a word of cheer to the discouraged.
Young men who are sticklers for hours, who are afraid of working overtime, who want to leave the office on the minute or a little before, who are always a little late in the morning, or who take their employer’s time for their own personal uses—such employees never get very far.
In every large establishment there are a few employees who show promise and are sure of promotion. They stick and dig and hang on to their task when other people are in a hurry to quit. They do not measure their hours by the clock, or their obligation to their employer by the amount of salary they receive ; they do not feel that, when they begin work earlier or stay later, it is an injustice on his part not to pay them for overtime.
Readiness, willingness to do anything at any time, a disposition to oblige, to accommodate, these are qualities that win an employer’s admiration.
No matter if it is a little inconvenient to you — if you have to postpone your supper or your evening’s amusement — if you can please your employer, you have scored an advantage which he will not forget.
The employer does not want to beg people to do things for him, and the boy who wants to get on ought to regard every opportunity to render a little additional service as a great advantage to him, a chance to get a little deeper into the confidence of his employer, to get a little nearer to him.
There is nothing which will put you in a more favorable light with your employer than to anticipate his wants and make him feel that you are trying to help him carry his load, and to make his work a little easier. Think for him,
plan for him when you can. He will appreciate it, and will gradually learn to depend upon you. In this way you may make yourself indispensable to him.
The very consciousness that you yourself feel the weight of responsibility, that you are trying to think out ways and means for advancing his interests, will fasten you to him with hooks of steel. He will overlook a great many deficiencies if you have this one quality of sincere interest in his affairs, and are really trying to help him,—if you have the same interest in his affairs as though the business were your own.
It is astonishing how few of the thousands of young men who are ambitious to get on in the world, are capable of independent action. Very few of them are leaders; the great majority are followers. This is one of the things which keeps young men and young women back. If there is anything in the world a man at the head of an establishment wants around him, it is those who can suggest something, who do not stand paralyzed in an emergency, but who can act independently.
Men never learn much by hanging around, doing just what they are told to do. It is the progressive young man who keeps his thinking cap on, who suggests improved methods, and plans of action, who is advanced.
A great many employers get sick and tired of asking those about them to do things and explaining how to do them. They feel that they would give their kingdom almost for a leader, for a man who could further their interests without asking questions all the time and wanting instructions. It is leaders that are wanted not followers, young men who can act quickly, who can start right, and right away.
We see standing around in most large establishments boys and young men with their hands in their pockets, powerless to map out a program, or to do anything unless told.
“As a rule, it is the employee ^ who does something out of the ordinary, something which the others associated with him do not do, who is promoted quickly, sometimes even over the heads
of those who have been in the business much longer than he has,” says John E. Hewer. “He takes more pains with his work, does it more rapidly, shows more interest in his employer’s affairs, evinces more intelligence and originality in his methods, or, in some other way, especially commends himself to his employer’s attention as one worthy of promotion.
If there is anything that makes a bad impression upon an_ employer it_ is a manifestation of indifference to his interests, a selfishness that measures every demand by personal interest.
“Employers are not blind to what is going on around them, and, though they may often seem unobservant, they are always watching those under them. They know who shirks, who watches the clock, who clips a few minutes, here and there, from his employer’s time; who comes a little late in the morning and goes a little earlier in the evening ; in other words, they keep thoroughly posted in regard to the work and general conduct of their employees.’
The men who have done great things in the world have been prodigious workers, particularly during the time when they were struggling to establish themselves in life. When genius has failed in what it attempted, and talent says impossible ; when every other faculté gives up; when tact retires and diplomacy has fled ; when logic and argument and influence and “pulls” have all done their best and retired from the field, gritty persistency, bulldog tenacity, steps in, and by sheer force of holding on wins, gets the order, closes the contract, does the impossible.
I often get letters from employees who complain bitterly that they have remained in the same position for many vears, with practically no advancement in salary or prospects. But there is usuallv something wrong witlp these employees. They lack enterprise, lack a comprehensive grasp of affairs; often they work mechanically; have a mere superficial knowledge of the business and hence they are not the kind of material the employer is seeking for promotion.
Knowledge is power everywhere, and
especially in one’s own specialty. I know young men who have been clerks in stores for many years in one department with no advancement, who never appear to show the slightest interest in any other department, or in the way in which the business as a whole is conducted ; they are simply cogs in a wheel ; mere automatons working mechanically so many hours a day, and thev are always glad when the day’s work is done.
This lack of interest in the business, this indifference of the employees to learning anything outside their own routine, is fatal to growth. What would become of the business if the proprietor were to show the same indifference, the same lack of interest as do these automaton clerks?
The principle of advancement, of growth, of progress, is the same whether in employer or employee. Business grows because of enterprising, progressive, up-to-date methods. Promotion for the employee requires the same pushing, vigorous, alert methods.
If you want to be something more than an average worker you must do something more than average work. If you expect to become an important figure in the world of commerce, a captain of industry, instead of a common soldier in the ranks of labor, you must put your shoulder to the wheel.
If you envy your employer his freedom from restraint, his independence, his financial power, it will pay you to inquire into the methods by which he rose from employee to employer. You will perhaps find that he worked for many years from twelve to eighteen hours a day for a small salary, that he rarely took a vacation, that he put every ounce of energy he possessed into his business.
It is astonishing how many young men are trying to get a living without hard work, ft does not seem possible that so many people could live off of one another without really producing anything themselves. Almost ^ everywhere we see young men looking for easy places, short hours, and the least possible work for the greatest possible salary.
Even if it were possible to get a living
with a very little effort, you could not afford it. You could not afford to coin your brain into dollars, to make dollarchasing the ambition of your life. There ought to be something larger in you than that. There is something in you which will not be satisfied with this sort of a life, something which will protest against selling yourself so cheaply. You can not respect yourself unless you are doing your best, making your greatest effort to bring out the liest thing in yon....
It is a pinching, narrowing, contracting policy, this trying to get something for nothing. It narrows the individual, stunts the growth, stops the expansion. There is something demoralizing in trying to get through life without a straggle ; without doing one’s part. The first thing the successful employee must realize is that he is really working for himself. Every bit of work he does heartily, honestly, thoroughly, is developing his own capacity, making him a bigger, broader, more capable man. It is the determination to take a manly part, to do one’s full share in the world, to amount to something, the willingness to struggle for advancement—the pushing out, the struggling on, the striving upward — that makes the exceptional man or woman.
This is the sort of exceptional employee civilization is looking for. He is wanted in every city, town and village ; he is wanted badly. Every office, shop, store and factory wants him. Every vocation is crying out for the exceptional man. He is needed, and needed badly everywhere.
No matter how hard the times or how many millions are out of employment, there is this sign up at the door of every factorv, every store, every large business office in this country WANTED A MAN - AN EXCEPTIONAL
The man who can do things when others only dream about them.
The man who will do his work when
the boss is away.
The man who has courage, who is not a slave to precedent.
The man who is not afraid of burning his bridges behind him.
The man who does not wait for an opportunity, but who makes it.
The man who puts grit in the place of his handicap; grit in the place of a good chance.
The man who, if he cannot go around, over or under a difficulty, goes straight through it.
The man who is a live wire.
The man who, when he falls, falls on his feet.
The man who has dare in his nature; who pushes ahead when others turn back.
The man who puts up a good front.
The man who makes a good first impression.
The man who does not procrastinate, dawdle or waver, but who goes straight to his goal.
The man who finds his own motor inside of him; who does not have to come back to his employer every few days to be recharged, like an automobile.
The man who is not easily turned down or shaken off; who has bull-dog grit — tenacity of purpose ; who smiles at rebuffs, who thrives upon them.
The man who is railing to take his medicine and who does not dally with the spoon.
The man who is ambitious to be an artist in his career instead of merely an artisan.
The man who will not make a fool of himself just because he knows how.
The man with an overmastering purpose, one unwavering aim; whose decision is quick and final; who believes in the miracle of polite persistency.
The young man who does not wait for his star, but who hitches his wagon to anything that comes his way.
The man who has not stinted his foundations; who is willing to pay the price for a large success; who does things to a finish ; who puts his trademark of superiority upon everything that passes through his hands.
The man who goes in to win; who starts out every morning with the grim resolution that he is going to make the day a red-letter day ; who takes for his motto, “Always improving something somewhere; bettering my best.’